Ever heard of the myth that the French do not get fat?
Of course, they do, but not as much as other people from other parts of the world do. Though obesity levels in France have doubled between 1995 and 2004 (to 11.3% of the population), France still has the lowest obesity rate in Europe. The French, along with the Italians and Swiss, are considered among the slimmest people in Europe on average, with 38.5 of men and 26% of the women who are considered overweight. France is ranked 191th among countries with mortalities caused by coronary heart diseases- surprising for a nation whose average consumption of fat from animal sources is 108 grams per person/day compared to Americans, who consume about 72 (USA ranked 135th). Compared to the Americans, the French eat four times as much butter, 60 percent more cheese and nearly three times as much pork.
What caused such a significant difference? The observation that the French (women, specifically) are always on the slender side has always been thought of to be associated with the people’s fascination with drinking wine almost everyday and the olive oil as a kitchen staple. But several researches all over the world dispute that resveratrol found in wine (red wine, specifically) and antioxidants abundant in olive oil are enough to support the French paradox.
It seems that it has more something to do with the French’s attitude, or should I say, love affair with food. Mireille Guiliano, a French-American author and a wine company CEO who grew up in France but moved back to the US, reveals this in her book called “The French Women Don’t Get Fat, The Secret Of Eating For pleasure”.
Here’s a few secrets (by then) she divulged:
The French do not believe in diets. For the French, nothing is off-limits. Their diet contains all fresh,whole foods and they avoid processed foods, junk foods, and sugary drinks. When cooking for themselves or friends, they go to great lengths to seek out the best produce and ingredients for their meal, usually one on foot by walking around the farmers’ markets, organic markets, boulangeries and fromageries, burning more calories and making their lifestyles ever healthier.
They eat what what they want to eat but they pay attention to portions. To be able to enjoy all types of meals while keeping a healthy weight, the French monitor portion sizes. They don’t overeat on a any single item or during any one meal.
It’s not the quantity but the quality. The French don’t normally apply the adage “the more, the merrier” when it comes to what they put in their mouths. They are selective about where to eat and where to buy their food. They enjoy quality breads, meats, yogurts, fruits, vegetables, wines , champagne and cheeses that don’t only taste good but are high in nutrient, too. They believe that if it doesn’t taste great, then don’t waste your time and calories. Many of them would be happy to enjoy a small serving of delicious, quality food than indulge on a plate of double servings but lesser quality. Take a cue from Mireille’s advice – “When you’re eating food that you adore, you don’t need a lot of it.”
They drink lots of water, too. Water does not only speed up our metabolism that helps in weight loss, it can also prolong our lives by keeping your internal organs (liver, kidney etc) clean and healthy.
Overall, it’s the French people and their government’s attitude towards food that makes them less prone to obesity. When the number of obesity started rising, French politicians passed a law banning soda and snack selling vending machines from public schools. Misleading print and television food advertisements were also banned. The government also put in place a 1.5% tax on the advertising budgets of food companies that did not encourage healthy eating.
But you don’t have to be in France or be French to start eating healthy, you can start within yourself and share the healthy practice to others.